Starting a Conversation About Mental Health

Starting a Conversation About Mental Health

Ashley Schmidt, Staff Reporter

Despite all of the technological and medical improvements to better our lives, mental health is continually on the decline. An astounding 1 in 5 teenagers lives with mental illness, and yet all talk of mental illness is hushed and private. If some form of physical illness was affecting 20 percent of youth with the numbers increasing, it would be all over the news. All of the best doctors and scientists would be trying to figure out how to help. However, the conversation about mental health hasn’t taken hold in society, which is something that needs to change.

Why All the Stigma?

With all of the stigma surrounding mental health, it’s no wonder that no one is eager to share their experience. Due to misinformation and hurtful stereotypes about mental illness, 98 percent of people agree that those with mental health are stigmatized. People with mental illness have become trapped with either getting help and risking being ostracized, or avoiding treatment and ultimately getting worse.

The image of mental illness in society is the overdramatized version seen on TV and in movies. Those with depression are shown as not ever getting out of bed or showering, even though 64 percent of those with major depression are still able to be technically functional. People with depression are then not taken seriously because their illness cannot be detected in their appearance. In addition, their suffering is often not taken seriously, and is instead brushed aside as being “overdramatic”.

Why I Write About Mental Health

Nothing will change unless people take the step to talk about their mental health and challenge the negative stereotypes. My mental illness is a huge part of my life, one that I’ve hidden for years. I got all too good at saying “I’m fine, just tired and stressed,” instead of mentioning what was really going on.

I got to the point where I can’t keep up the act, so I decided to open up about my mental illness. My hope is that by opening up, people with mental illness will realize that they are not alone in their battle. I will fight to start the conversation, to show the world why mental health needs to be addressed. Everyone deserves help and compassion in fighting mental illness.

Mental Health Resources

For many people, getting help for mental health is very difficult. Stigma plays a huge role, but therapy and medication can also be very expensive, especially if insurance doesn’t want to help with the cost. In addition, the idea of opening up about mental health is daunting when someone first learns of their illness. Thankfully, there are tons of online resources for mental health for those who are not able to go to therapy for whatever reason.

Online Therapy:

Online therapy is great for those who live in areas with limited resources or for those who don’t have the time to drive to an appointment. There are an abundance of options available, and some are affordable. Some examples are:

Wellness Chats:

While free, wellness chats are just with a volunteer and not a licensed therapist. However, it is a great option to open up to someone who will not judge you and who is there to listen. Some examples are:


Generally for emergencies, some sort of mental health crisis, hotlines are where to go when you need immediate help. There are many different hotlines, and some texting ones as well for those who aren’t as comfortable talking on the phone. Some examples are:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255
  • Helpline for teens specifically- 717-394-2000
  • Crisis text line- text HOME to 741741

How to Start a Conversation About Mental Health

While starting a conversation about mental health sounds extremely daunting, it is not all that hard. If you do not struggle with mental illness yourself, an easy step is to tell family and friends that if they are ever struggling, that you are willing to listen without judgement. Often, letting someone know that you are willing to listen can prompt them into opening up about their own mental health.

Correcting the incorrect usage of mental illness and related terms is another way to battle stigma. Using phrases such as “what a psycho,” “kill me now,” or “I’m so OCD, I like to organize my closet” invalidate what those with mental illness go through. Gently inform the person that using a mental illness to describe something else is hurtful for those struggling with the illness. Even if you do not struggle with mental illness yourself, you never know who might have overheard you and who might struggle with mental illness.

If you really want to work to start mental health conversations, talking to a school counselor about ways to stop mental health stigma at school or finding/starting a group dedicated to getting rid of stigma around mental health is a great way to go. Little steps made by many people go a long way towards a better understanding of mental health as a society.

How to Share Your Story

If you struggle with mental illness and are ready to open up to the world, even just a little bit, there are options available to you. In writing about mental health, I plan to go over all illnesses, even the ones I do not have myself. Sharing personal experiences will go a long way to show people that they are not alone.

If you are willing to share, please email me at [email protected] or text 319-573-0806. I will work with you to find a way for you to share your story in an article, however much you are comfortable with sharing. By sharing, you are helping spur the conversations about mental health that the world needs to have.